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North Midland 2023

April 8, 2023

It was good to see the Chesterfield show benches looking so colourful, but it was white flowers that stole the show.

Geoff Rollinson exhibited two perfect specimens of Androsace villosa taurica: one taking the award for the best plant in a 19 cm pot, while the larger plant not only won the trophy for the best European plant, but also the Farrer medal. Geoff also showed a particularly large flowered Androsace villosa labelled GFS73. This plant was grown from seed collected by George Smith (erstwhile chairman of my own East Cheshire Group) in the Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria in the 1980s. Geoff has grown this plant on from one of George’s first seedlings which makes the plant about forty years old. A compost with at least 50% grit is Geoff’s formula for these plants.

Androsace villosa taurica exhibited by Geoff Rollinson (Farrer Medal)

Androsace villosa taurica exhibited by Geoff Rollinson (Farrer Medal)

Ericaceae come alive at this show and John Savage is one of the best growers of these plants. His offerings included well-flowered Andromeda polifolia ‘Compacta’ and Rhododendron ‘Princess Anne’, but for the award  for best plant of Ericaceae the judges could see no further that his unusual white flowered form of Rhododendron impeditum which was displayed in perfect condition. These plants helped John to win the aggregate for the Open Section with a very narrow margin from Don Peace on account of second places.

Rhododendron impeditum album exhibited by John Savage

Rhododendron impeditum album exhibited by John Savage

Brenda Nickels took the aggregate for the Intermediate Section with some excellent plants. I was drawn to some good looking primulas and a well-flowered Clematis ‘Emerald Dream’ – a member of the Fosteri group. However, her best plant was probably an Iberis sempervirens ‘Appen-Etz’ which she inadvertently exhibited in a flowering cushion class. Even the judges didn’t notice, but the plant was eventually downgraded. To someone who once put two Irises in a distinct genera 3-pan these errors are understandable (we can all make mistakes).

Iberis sempervirens Appen-etz exhibited by Brenda Nickels

Iberis sempervirens 'Appen-Etz' exhibited by Brenda Nickels

Brenda was given strong competition in the section by Henry Fletcher whose entries included some interesting Trillium, particularly his T. camschatcense.

Trilliums featured strongly in the show; John Bunn taking the best bulbous plant award with his Trillium kurubayashii, whilst Carol Kellett showed a T. cuneatum with beautifully mottled leaves and Mike Acton’s T. albidum, displayed in excellent condition, was awarded the best plant in the Novice Section.

Trillium kurabayashii exhibited by John Bunn

Trillium kurabayashii exhibited by John Bunn

The Novice Section was relatively well-populated and the Trillium was a close run for best plant with Steve Spells’ Primula farinosa.

Back in the Open Section, orchids were in full flower and there was none more colourful than the faultless Calanthes shown by Steve Clements, whose orchids always impress.

Cacti are appearing more regularly at the shows and the Anne Vale’s 3-pan of Mammillarias from the upland areas of Mexico certainly made a statement. There has been some recent controversy about hardiness, but Anne has grown these in an unheated greenhouse for many years. An absence of water between October and March (or April depending on the weather), a single spring feed and appropriate control on vine weevil and mealy bug works for her. The controversy would suggest that she has more success than others and, in their dry state, they seem to have survived this winter better than some of my plants which generally receive more moisture during this period.

Incidentally, miniature gardens with accessories do not meet with universal approval, but it was difficult not to appreciate Anne’s well-proportioned example.

Something a little different which caught my eye was Chris Bowyer’s Aichryson sp. – a monocarpic Aeonium relative which seeds around his cold frames.  It’s bright yellow flowers and mildly bronzed foliage blended well with the Tulipa orphanidea in his 3-pan.

As a grower of woodland plants, I always admire Ian Instone’s Asarum maximum, which combines flowers with good contrast with attractive striped foliage.

Ian’s collection of Androsaces, displayed as a miniature garden amongst “rocks” made from shaped polystyrene, was an interesting exhibit, although too far from the norm to impress the judges.

Show Reporter: Bob Worsley
Show Photographer: Don Peace